The Story of the Rice
I officially became a Buddhist on July 4, 1999, however, in the late 1990’s I had a divination done by the late Yogi Lama (Lama Kalsang Rinpoche). I asked him about my spiritual future, so he did a special style of divination using a cat-o’9-tails-looking device on a bed of rice. I also asked him to bless a Buddha statue for me. Blessing Buddha statues or other Buddhist objects involves the teacher saying special prayers, mantras, etc. and throwing grains of rice on the object. Some of these grains of rice landed in the folded hands of the Buddha and I left them there.
Sometime in the year 2000, a friend of mine along with two other guys, who I will refer to as “K” and “J,” met on the internet and decided to climb Mt Rainier in Washington State. In order to protect my journey, another friend of mine bought me a tiny Buddhist locket called a “Gau,” in which special items can be placed. My friend, a Catholic, got a special St. Christopher necklace from his wife to protect him.
At the time I didn’t know what to place in the locket so I put in 4 grains of rice, one for each of us climbers, in hopes that these blessed grains of rice would protect us. I wouldn’t open the Gau during the journey to Mt Rainier, but I looked inside at the start of the climb to make sure that all four grains were still there and they were there and they were intact. The climb to the summit of Mt Rainier starts at Paradise, then climbs to Camp Muir where the climbers spend at least one night, then onto the summit. Once we got to Camp Muir and got everything set up, I opened my Gau, with my friend present and noticed one grain was broken in half. My friend and I decided not to tell anyone in case it was a bad omen. We would wait until after we got to the summit.
You have to start early on the day you’re going to climb to the summit. Very early! We were up a little after midnight and “K,” one of the two new friends from the internet, informed us he would not be going to the summit with us. So it seems that the one broken grain of rice was his.
The three of us started climbing at about 1:00 am and summited safely around 7:00 am. It was truly an amazing and unforgettable experience! While on the summit, my friend and I decided to open the Gau and look at the rice. Upon opening the Gau we both witnessed that they were all broken and not just in half but into many, tiny pieces! I was too new to Buddhism to understand the significance of what this may have meant. I knew we could ask a sherpa back at Paradise who was from that region and had summited Mt Everest several times.
We all made it safely back to Paradise and I did ask the sherpa. He said that it was a bad omen and that our friendship would be scattered like the wind. My friend and I climbed maybe a couple more times after that and our friendship did fall apart the following year. As for “K” and “J”, we never climbed or saw each other again. And this is the story of the rice.